Hartz site proposal heads to Bloomfield council

With Hartz Mountain preparing to leave Bloomfield, the site’s prime location on Bloomfield Avenue next to an array of transportation options is an ideal spot for a “hybrid” mixed-use development, a planner said.

The township’s professional developer consultant, David Roberts of Maser Consulting, told the Bloomfield Planning Board on Tuesday that the proposed development’s close proximity to the Watsessing Avenue Train Station, Grove Street Light Rail and eight bus routes would make it a “transit-oriented district.”

The plan resembles a “hybrid” mixed-use development because the project does not conform to vertical development normally associated with those projects, he said. While most have businesses on the first floor with residential units stacked on top, this project calls for business fronts along the Bloomfield Avenue property with residential units behind, he said.

“Effectively, this will have to be a self-contained development,” he said.

With a 5-2 vote with four absences, the Planning Board voted to send the project to the Township Council for review. Susanna Sotillo and Richard Stephan voted against the proposal. Questioning Roberts prior to the vote, Sotillo said she had concerns about traffic along Bloomfield Avenue.

While the property can hold up to 395 residential rental units between three and four stories, Roberts said there is no final unit tally. The complex will be exclusively for two-bedroom units, Roberts said. A developer’s representative once said it would have two- and three-bedroom apartments.

As this project is debated, Bloomfield is wrestling on how to deal with at least nine other projects under construction or on the drawing board. The majority of the township council agreed in June to explore a study for the township’s short- and long-term planning.

Save Bloomfield Now released a statement prior to Tuesday’s meeting, stating it is interested in finding out if there an environmental report for the project.

Because the land is a Brownfield site - a former industrial complex - it would need to be cleaned up. “Issues” with the soil may dictate where residential and retail units are located, Roberts said, without elaborating.

According to Save Bloomfield Now’s Facebook page, it is a nonpartisan group not against redevelopment. They fight “over-development and other bad local government policies that sacrifice the long-term best interests of Bloomfield for dubious short-term gain,” according to its Facebook site.

Hartz, a pet goods manufacturer, announced in 2010 that it will close in Bloomfield - where it had been since the 1960s - and move its production facilities to Ohio. Nearly 180 employees will be laid off.

While the company said at the time it expected to be off the land by the end of 2011, it appears some offices there are still in use. A company spokesman could not be immediately reached Wednesday.

About 20 residents attended the meeting, and three asked Roberts questions. Carol Humphries said she wanted to make sure the project is in the best interest of the taxpayers, not the developer. Sue Ann Penna raised concerns about traffic and the number of parking spaces available.

Roberts said the abandoned train track next door could be turned into a pedestrian walkway, connecting the former Hartz property with Watsessing Avenue station.

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